For the die hard fly fisherman on the South Fork of the Boise River, the idea of keeping all the trout they catch is beyond insane. Keeping any trout they catch is pretty crazy. There would be no fishery left in a matter of years, or at least so it seems with the number of people who visit those hallowed waters every weekend. Heck, the river is literally shut down right now so that we can let those trout do what they need to do this time of year. On the other hand, plenty of anglers on any given weekend have a singular purpose of limiting out on their 6 trout per day, whether it be in some of the larger reservoirs, stocked ponds, or unprotected rivers. There's a place for both of these attitudes in the world - actually in Idaho itself even - and there have been some interesting developments along those lines recently. On the South Fork of the Snake River though, anglers are now being encouraged keep every rainbow they can, and for a lot of folks it's a hard habit to change.
I'm an angler that grew up learning catch and release, especially for trout. And, I never liked the way trout tasted. And had no fun picking bones out of my teeth when I tried. But in just the last year I've started looking at things differently. I've fished some places where the trout are sterile, and the only reason they're there to be caught is because of license fees or special permit fees. There's no harm in taking a few fish from those spots as long as you stay legal by paying your dues and following regulations. And then a buddy of mine took a few of the nice trout we caught from a reservoir, smoked them up, and had me try it. Suddenly, I'm wondering why I spend money on smoked salmon at the store if I could just do this. Now, one new fillet knife later, I pick and choose a few trips to the right places each year where I know that keeping a few rainbows that will make some dark orange, boneless fillets won't hurt the fishery as a whole. But I don't necessarily share that with every fly fishing buddy that I have, because they're not ready to hear it yet.
Despite my changing attitude, it can still be really hard to keep the biggest fish, because I have that instinct to leave it for the next guy. Or to leave the smaller ones so they'll grow up for someone else to catch. But in Eastern Idaho there's a whole different problem and philosophy when it comes to keeping rainbows that I've just started to become aware of. Rather than tell you all about it though, here are a few items worth reading, and possibly challenging your own preconceptions about what to do when you catch a rainbow (depending on where you are).
Rainbow trout to be removed from the South Fork of the Snake River and stocked in local ponds (Press Release From Idaho Fish and Game)
South Fork Snake rainbows receive reward tags (video and more info from Idaho Fish and Game)
The fish that made a river famous (article from Hatch)
If you're convinced, you may start to think about committing the travesty of buying a fillet knife, bringing a stringer on your next trip, and killing a rainbow or two. Don't worry, if I'm out there with my fly rod and happen to spot you, I won't judge.